Junior taking long look at moving up to the varsity

BIG DOG: Sophomore Kenneth Lofton Jr. is considering ending his Louisiana Tech basketball career to play professionally, and has conditionally declared for this summer’s NBA Draft.

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

RUSTON – Tuesday, Kenneth Lofton Jr. decided the future is now.

Louisiana Tech’s standout sophomore post player announced on social media he is declaring for the NBA Draft, but will retain the right to come back to college basketball for at least one more season.

“This is a great opportunity for me to gather valued feedback from NBA teams,” said Lofton, who can consider that information before finalizing his pro path this summer or choosing to return to the college ranks.

Analysts for NBADraftRoom.com list him as a potential late first-round to mid-second round selection.

“For the past two years, the Bulldog family has been amazing! Your unwavering love and support has earned a special place in my heart,” he wrote. “I want to thank Coach Konkol and the entire coaching staff. I am forever grateful for the support and opportunity to represent such a distinguished university.”

If Lofton decides to return to Tech, he won’t be playing for the same head coach. Eric Konkol was introduced Tuesday as the new head man at Tulsa after seven seasons leading the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs’ Wes Unseld 2.0 version has overwhelmed the opposition throughout his two seasons at Tech, and was a stalwart last summer for the FIBU World Cup USA U19 Team, winning a gold medal in what is essentially the Junior Olympics.

Another Tech standout, senior guard Amorie Archibald, also has aspirations for the NBA Draft. He is one of only four players in program history to amass 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 450 assists and 125 steals. The 6-3 point guard averaged 12.3 points and 2.5 assists this season and started the last 90 games he played for Konkol.

At 6-foot-7, Lofton is listed at 275 pounds and although he seems larger, it’s not blubber. He has remarkable touch, can run the floor and is a capable ball-handler with good passing ability, often leading Tech in assists. He averaged 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds this season and earned first-team All-Conference USA honors.

In his first collegiate season, Lofton was the C-USA Freshman of the Year with averages of 12.1 points and 7.5 rebounds as the Bulldogs won 24 games and finished third in the National Invitation Tournament after falling in the conference tournament semifinals.

Photo courtesy Louisiana Tech